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Ultimate Ears UE-18 Pro First Impressions

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
UE 18 Pro first impressions

First off I must say that this is my first pair of customs. So I will have to disappoint people who are waiting for compairsons with the JH13 Pro / UE10 Pro / UE11 Pro. I listened to JH13 Pro on a universal fit stock shell at a certain shop here in Hong Kong, but that brief audition certainly does not merit any meaningful comparison with the 18 Pros.

On the other hand, I have quite a collection of universal IEMs. So I will be able to compare the universals with the UE18 here and let people decide whether it is worth the jump (not necessarily to 18 Pro, may well be the 13 Pro or 16 Pro). Since I had no experience with custom made IEMs (except my SE530 which had to be re-shelled into a custom due to broken cable), I will use universal IEMs as reference.

1. Fit

No point to mention this for customs - mine is a perfect fit on the first go. Kudos to UE for this.

2. Sound stage

Just less than a month ago, I got myself a pair of Ortofon e-Q7 which has the widest soundstage among all my IEMs to date. Yes that is wider than the TF10 Pro. The instrument separation on e-Q7 was the best I have heard.

The horizontal sound stage of UE18 Pro is surprisingly similar to that of e-Q7. In terms of the forward/backward axis, the sound of UE18 Pro so far is quite neutral. Not as forward as the CK100 before burn-in. In terms of positioning it is more like sitting on the front row in a concert hall (not on the stage, not too backward).

But apart from the width and depth of the sound stage, UE18 Pro is capable of producing a very airy feeling which I have not heard from other IEMs. The airiness is not colored like TF10 - it has a very natural airiness to it and is best demonstrated by live music.

3. Sound signature

I think it would be better to talk about the overall sound signature before going into trebles / mids / bass separately. To me, UE18 Pro has a warm sound signature, with a bit of emphasis on bass and low-mids, but that does not affect the high-mids and treble in any way - in fact you will read below that the mid-high and trebles still sound better than any IEMs I have heard, especially when the highs are mixed in bass heavy music.

In short, it is the like SE530 but with much deeper and controlled bass and treble so transparent that first the first time I listen to the soprano and don't feel that I hate it, a soundstage wider than TF10 Pro and rivals eQ-7, but at the same time without the coarseness in SE530 and e-Q7, simply silky smooth like the CK100 yet natural and not colored, and treble that surpasses the CK100 in terms of faithfulness and transparency for a tad but has a more straight out of the box feeling, and the overall transparency surpasses that of all universal IEMs I have heard, including my favourite CK100, with details and speed beating that of er4p and TF10 Pro and just as fast as the eQ-7 but with even more details.

4. Bass

I think bass is the part most people are concerned about due to the much controversial bass of UE11. I have not had the chance to listen to UE11, but according to reviews its bass can be boomy and may outshine the mids. My feeling about the bass of UE18 - perfect - so deep, so natural, you can actually feel the 2 bass drivers vibrate inside the shell. The quantity to me is just right - IE8 had too much bass (at the lowest bass level) for me that I had to give it up. I can accept the bass quantity of W3 - I think the bass quantity of UE18 Pro is similar to that of W3 - but that does not mean the mids or highs are in anyway compromised - see below. But that is just bass quantity - the quality of the bass and the depth of the bass is something I couldn't even imagine for IEMs before I heard it.

FYI, I have a SVS PC13 Ultra subwoofer in my home and it is known for producing very very deep bass - so deep that sometimes the human ears cannot hear the bass (sound below 20Hz) but you can feel the bass. That is the same thing here - of course only the feeling comes within your ears only.

5. Mids

The mids are smooth and relaxed, I would say more so than the e-Q7 and the SE530, but at the same time detailed to a point that is astonishing to me who had never listened to customs. The UE18 Pro does not sound coarse (like the SE530 or eQ7) amped or unamped - simply silky smooth but very naturally so (unlike the CK100 which is smooth but quite colored in the mids - and what's more even the CK100 smoothness can't rival that of UE18) . In short, the UE18 Pro possesses the naturalness and musical dynamics between SE530 and e-Q7 but no coarseness like the SE530 or e-Q7.

6. Treble

It is when comparing the treble of CK100 and UE18 Pro I cannot decide which is actually better. Both are capable of producing the treble of the soprano in an opera faithfully, but CK100 is a bit more refined, whereas the UE18 Pro gives me a feeling that it just makes it sound as it is, lacking a tad of smoothness that the CK100 provides, but at the same time a bit more natural than the CK100. The best thing is the treble does not really get affected when listening to high notes while the bass is thumping down there with much clarity and tightness. The real upper hand with UE18 Pro's treble over CK100 is that UE18 Pro can produce such beautiful highs very naturally, whereas CK100 is like a small girl producing a very smooth voice (like the sound of a little girl singing in a choir).

7. Amped / Unamped

I tried it straight with my Nokia N97 and interestingly the bass is just as good, although when bass comes loud and fast in some music, the mids and highs became a mid muddled due to lower power of the mobile device. Once connected to the RSA SR71A (Black Bird), however, the sound is not muddled anywhere across the spectrum and the clarity and transparency is simply stunning. Funny thing is that I already feel that UE18 Pro is better than any of my universals, amped or unamped, once I connect my 18 Pro to my Nokia and listened to it. The 18 Pro definitely benefits from good amping but straight out of a MP3 player (like my Nokia N97) it could sound very very good too.

8. Conclusions

No conclusions just yet, since it is only the 2nd day I am into it. But there is a strange feeling that I really cannot put it down. It is not because of writing this review I have to say I cannot put it down like everyone does. I literally cannot put it down - it is like a body reaction or something, there is so much in the music that I am like listening to all of the music all over again. Just now I was picking up something and stood up while I started to play music having the 18 Pros in my ears. Then I kept standing in that same position in my bedroom for like 10 minutes without moving until someone called me (I have my 18 Pro connected to my mobile so I know when someone calls, otherwise any other thing would not have distracted me).
post #2 of 40
How much money in HK?
post #3 of 40
Nice first impressions. It's not something I could have written because I suck at it, but it sounds about right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by peter0316 View Post
How much money in HK?
About 10,500 HKD
post #4 of 40
Thanks for the review googleli!
post #5 of 40
Good Review!!!
post #6 of 40
fantastic review. probably one of the first to get yours and you seem to love them. i guess that means i'll pick up your universals when you put them up for sale
post #7 of 40
Nice review! Very tidy and informative comparison.

Airy - Spacious. Open. Instruments sound like they are surrounded by a large reflective space full of air. Good reproduction of high frequency reflections. High frequency response extends to 15 or 20 kHz.

Coloured - Having timbres that are not true to life. Non flat response; peaks or dips.

(Taken from: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/des...ossary-220770/)

You said that unlike UE18, TF10 has coloured airiness. So with the explanation above, is it ok for me to take this as TF10's high is coloured/unnatural compared to UE18? Just asking out of curiousity.
post #8 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KLS View Post
Nice review! Very tidy and informative comparison.

Airy - Spacious. Open. Instruments sound like they are surrounded by a large reflective space full of air. Good reproduction of high frequency reflections. High frequency response extends to 15 or 20 kHz.

Coloured - Having timbres that are not true to life. Non flat response; peaks or dips.

(Taken from: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/des...ossary-220770/)

You said that unlike UE18, TF10 has coloured airiness. So with the explanation above, is it ok for me to take this as TF10's high is coloured/unnatural compared to UE18? Just asking out of curiousity.
The TF10 does give you extra sparkling details at the highs but that is like someone pushing it, yet the CK100 sounds more refined (as said in the impressions, like a little girl singing naturally, providing smooth treble that has better extension), and the 18 Pro simply just pours it out naturally like a very fat soprano singing at ease (at the same time surpassing the treble details that the TF10 or the CK100 can give).
post #9 of 40
^ Thanks for the explanation!

This is the first time I came across with "coloured airiness", so I am just curious what it means. As for "airiness" or "airy", I took it to mean spacious/open, until I checked the glossary and your explanation.
post #10 of 40
nice comparison, but doesn't comparing the ue18 to universals a bit unfair?
anyway, does ue18 hiss with your n97?
post #11 of 40
^ I personally find it to be appropriate comparing customs to the universals (though a little unfair as you said), it helps us judge whether customs are worth the extra money to spend.
post #12 of 40
unfair? probably but more people have universals than customs here and it's not like the OP has other customs to compare it to
post #13 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nycdoi View Post
nice comparison, but doesn't comparing the ue18 to universals a bit unfair?
anyway, does ue18 hiss with your n97?
I don't have any other customs so that's the only way I can compare. It may help people who are used to universals like me to decide whether to make the leap.

Given that the UE18 is quite warm, now I am seriously thinking about the JH13 instead of JH16. JH13 as monitor, UE18 for more musical side enjoyment. Gotta wait for review of the JH16 before deciding.

Does not hiss with N97.
post #14 of 40
it doesn't hiss?? whoa...
post #15 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saintkeat View Post
it doesn't hiss?? whoa...
I find most of my IEMs don't hiss with N97 with the exception of e-Q7. The 18 Pro does hiss with the Black Bird at louder volumes (volumes that you won't normally listen at) though.
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